Hi, I’m Alex and I have depression. I’m not depressed at the time of this writing. But I do have depression. It sucks. And it likes to strike at the most inopportune moments. Isn’t that how it always is?
(note/TW: this is how I have experienced anxiety and depression, and sometimes still do)
But first, Anxiety:
I’m very open about my experience with anxiety. Mostly because I feel like it’s more accepted. Sure, it might debilitate me, cause my mind to spiral out of control, make me cry, make me sick, make me too afraid to leave my home sometimes. But it also makes me so scared of failure that I’ll push myself to my limits to be “successful.”
On the outside, I just appear driven. But on the inside, I’m barely treading water. People only see what they want to see, and success is valued – so in a twisted way, having anxiety means I care.
Depression, on the other hand, is a dirty word. It’s a dark place, a shadowy figure looming over your shoulder, ready to strike at any moment, ready to knock you off your feet and isolate you. Depression makes me “lazy” and “unproductive.” It’s a dark shadow over my life that makes me crave days spent in my bed with the blackout curtains drawn and the white noise fan turned on. It doesn’t make me driven. It doesn’t make me fear failure.
Because when I am depressed, I am failure. I encompass failure.
I am a dark shadow that has no joy or motivation to do anything but lay in bed and binge watch tv shows I won’t remember a week later.
The first time with depression…
When I was diagnosed with depression, I was 21, a senior in college, and recently returned from London. I broke down in the shower because I realized that the constant drowsiness, need to stay in bed, skip class, and sleep 13+ hours a day, disconnect from my peers, and inability to focus were something more than just “adjusting to coming back to school.”
I only confided in a few people because depression is a dirty word. My anxiety made me seem better in a highly competitive environment; my depression made me seem weak, like I couldn’t handle the pressure.
In all honesty, depression makes me hate myself.
It makes me battle internally with all my might to not let it overpower me. But it does. It makes me belittle everything about myself; it makes me feel like a failure. The brain fog and exhaustion and constant inner battle – it’s all too much.
It’s all so much that I pretty much blocked out most of those three months I was first depressed. I remember binge-watching countless TV shows (about a season per day) – the only ones I remember are Parks & Recreation, Gilmore Girls, Heartland, and Broadchurch (but that’s because I’ve since rewatched them). I remember a perpetual brain fog that made everything seem fuzzy and separated from reality. I remember the never-ending exhaustion despite going to bed at 8:30 and waking up at 10 the next day and holding myself in my room for the waking hours except for those I spent in class. I remember eating and eating and not really being able to stop but also not really being hungry. Eating was productive. I remember not remembering any happy moments from my past, despite having just returned from one of the happiest years of my life.
And then there were the papers I spent countless hours just staring at books and blank pages internally screaming at myself to write something. And then the day of the deadline having my anxiety and fear of failure overpower my depression and kick in while I hastily threw something together. (I still couldn’t tell you about the papers I wrote or how I got any of it done but I craved those moments of movement, of life).
And then came some brief flickers of hope, the moments where I saw how maybe being depressed for the rest of my life might not be how things ended up.
Maybe I would move, see clearly, have energy, sleep normally, focus again. Close friends supported me, some consciously, most without even knowing it. Classmates I worked with gave me the human connection I didn’t know I needed. Coupled with antidepressants and a hefty amount of crying and Ben & Jerry’s (sometimes depression is cliché), the shadow slowly lifted. Eventually, my laughter wasn’t forced or fake. And when I went home for Thanksgiving, I was, dare I say, somewhat happy. I had forgotten what that felt like.
Depression left me for a while after that. It comes back occasionally, sneaking up behind me when I least expect it. It’s still something I struggle with handling but at least now I have strategies for it and know the signs. It still brings out the worst of my thoughts and emotions. But I know it will end and I’ll be back to my anxious self eventually.
I know this story isn’t the happiest…
But it’s true. And I’m sharing it because I’m tired of hiding the fact that I’ve been depressed before. I am at a place where I can make jokes about my anxiety and the crazy things it makes me do. Depression on the other hand, not so much.
I’m also sharing my experience with depression so that others know they’re not alone. If you think you might be depressed, or if you have depression and haven’t told anyone, please don’t be afraid to speak up or reach out for help. You are not alone.
And know that it will pass. <3
I am so very, very proud of you for accepting exactly who you are and putting it all out there. I have a child that also struggles with anxiety and depression and I always share your thoughtful and very personal accounts of the reality of living and being successful while still struggling inside. I pray that you continue to overcome this very debilitating condition.
Thank you so much <3
Thank you for sharing your experiences. It’s so important as many also dealing with anxiety and depression and we fall short in taking care of mental illness in the US.
My daughter also lives with anxiety and has a few new episodes of what sounds like depression. During those dark times, being a college student, she was alone and unable to get medical attention when she most needed it. Thankfully, her friends got her through it, but she has yet to find a doctor who can work with her in the moment and adjust her medication. Most are not taking new patients and if they do, they won’t work with her remotely. She’s a college student with parents in separate states and spends her summers traveling for dance (her career/major). Any tips on finding a doctor?
I completely agree! Mental illness in US healthcare needs to become a priority. I’m so sorry to hear about what your daughter is going through! I was lucky to have access to a family medicine practice in my school’s town with a nurse practitioner who was accepting new patients. She was with me for my toughest two years. I would suggest your daughter speak to the campus health center or even the Dean of Students as they might have resources she is not aware of. I have also been able to find doctors through ZocDoc. For therapy, she might look into BetterHelp or TalkSpace to speak with licensed mental health counselors virtually through chat, phone, and video calls based on a monthly flat fee instead of in-person therapy which charges per visit. I hope this helps and I hope your daughter is able to get all the help she needs and deserves :)